Which Move Should I Make First?

There is a lot of advice on all the things we can be doing to improve our health, like eating better, exercising more, improving our sleep routines, doing breath work, journalling about our thoughts and feelings, spending quality time with loved ones, and don't forget making time for self care - but all of this can lead to overwhelm and confusion. So how can we get on top of it? Which change should we begin with? Where is the most effective place to invest our energy to get more return from our efforts? What is the best first move?

If you are feeling overwhelmed or paralysed by the endless choices on what to change for better health then this article may offer you a refreshing, achievable and sustainable approach to making effective decisions that move you in the right direction. Jump in and discover how. 

Small steps, big impact

It is easy to feel overwhelmed when we are bombared with so much health information and the latest fads that are supposedly the next best thing in solving the health challenges that so many of us face, particularly as we get older. Think about a time that you might have been handed a pile of paperwork to get through or a thick text book full of information that you needed to absorb. Just the thought of going through all that material would make any person want to put their hands up in the air and find something else - anything else - to do.

The most effective way of getting through a pile of seemingly never-ending, or worse still - conflicting - information is to break it down. Big drastic changes are rarely achievable, or sustainable. However, taking one thing at a time gives us the capacity to work within limits that feel realistic, and more importantly, doable. Achievement is a big motivator for further action. Ticking off one task sets us up for success for the next one, and so on. In this way we are able to progressively move things along in the right direction rather than feeling like a failure and giving up all together.

One tweak at a time

It sounds simple doesn't it? Focusing on changing one thing is much easier than trying to incorporate a handful of new health behaviours at the same time. Changing too much, too soon puts our minds and bodies into confusion and uncertainity. When we don't feel safe it is easy to stay with what is familiar and not change anything at all! As humans we tend to do better when we can focus on one thing at a time. However, there are some important things to consider when deciding which "one thing" to focus on.

Picking something that is already part of your routine isn't going to be the right thing to focus on because there isn't much you need to change with that. So you need to pick a new behaviour that you wish to create into an automatic habit. One strategy might be to add, or stack, the new behaviour with the already existing one. For example, if you are already drinking a glass of filtered water in the morning, you might decide to add doing a morning stretch routine with that until it becomes part of your new routine.

Change is hard

It is important to remind yourself that creating change is hard because we like routines that feel familiar. It will feel uncomfortable altering routines at first but like anything new, with practice, the new behaviour will start to feel familiar and the mind and body will begin to accept it as part of your daily pattern. Be compassionate with yourself and keep persisting. Ask yourself, what are you hoping to achieve with the new behaviour and why is that important to you?

Once you have decided what goal or outcome you are trying to achieve then consider what is going to make you feel most successful in moving towards it. Some people like to go for the "low hanging fruit" meaning picking something that is within their reach. Whilst the returns may be smaller, they can feel more achievable. Changing this "one thing" will be simple and will bring immediate success, creating confidence and motivation, fuelling the next small change. For example, you might find placing a glass of water by your bedside an easy strategy to help you start your day with water.

Other people prefer going for the "big kahuna" meaning the "one thing" that they tweak will yield the most benefit. Changing this will be hard, but will yield massive payoffs. Whatever choice you make, be 95-100% committed, engage your strengths, make your tasks very clear and specific, and start small, even if you choose the "big kahuna" option. 

Different individuals have different priorities

What is important to one person may not be a priority to someone else. It is important to take into account what has the most meaning to you. What do you value and how does that align with the changes you are trying to implement? Behaviours that are aligned with your highest values will be easier to carry out. For example, if you value good quality sleep because you know it will help you feel refreshed in the morning you will be more likely to go to bed at a reasonable hour rather than watching another netflix episode.

These are not the only type of priorities I like to refer to when supporting clients to make changes. There are also epigenetic "lifestyle priorities" that can have a big impact on the outcomes we see in people's lives. Lifestyle factors include things like nutrition, exercise, relationships, where we live, what we surround ourselves with, and how we use our mind and natural talents. All of these factors influence the way we interact with the world, which also influences how the world interacts with us (and our genes). Almost everything we do has the potential of affecting how our genes are expressed, or not expressed. 

By understanding our bodies we can focus on the areas of our life that are going to give us the best return on our effort investment. For example, given my unique body type I know that I will get the biggest return on my health from making changes to my exercise routine, so it makes more sense for me to put my focus and effort into this area rather than trying to improve my health by creating change around my relationships.

This is all part of the exciting world of epigenetics and how we can unlock hidden information to create effective and sustainable behaviour change that optimises our health and wellbeing. And it can start right now.

Want to learn how to effectively move the dial on your health?

Discover where to gain the best return on your energy investment by identifying your unique "lifestyle priorities". Knowing which lifestyle strategies are most likely to create the biggest impact in your health and wellbeing will help you put your effort into the right things, saving the rest of your energy for life's other enjoyments. Find out how with a personalised assessment and decrease the overwhelm today!

Focus on the right things and move your health dial in the right direction with ease.  

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